Politicians provide public speaking training

I love listening to politicians, particularly because their actions often provide valuable public speaking training lessons.

Hudak made himself a target

Training, specifically Canadian training for recent immigrants, has become a hot issue in the current Ontario election. A couple of days ago I heard Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak tear into a plan floated by the Liberals to provide a $10,000 incentive to any company that hired new immigrants to allow them to get some Canadian training. Hudak sounded a bit like a junkyard dog and, with just a little froth around the corners of his mouth, he tore into the plan with venom saying his government would provide jobs for Canadians, not “foreign workers”. And with that one little phrase Hudak made himself a public speaking target that Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty lost no time in attacking.

“The Tea Party element”

With the smoothness that comes from years and years as a ruling party leader, McGuinty pointed out that “in my Ontario there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘us’”. He went on to contrast his party with the Conservatives by referring to some of Hudak’s supporters as “the Tea Party element”. What a beautiful comeback! Whoever wrote those words for McGuinty deserves a raise.

Know your audience

It’s all delightful theatre but what are the lessons here? I think the first one is, know your audience; know what your audience needs and wants to hear. Hudak may have been appeasing some of the elements in his constituency with his reference to “foreign workers” but in this case I think McGuinty was more in tune with the broader electorate.

Choose your words

The second lesson is: choose your words carefully. Labeling new immigrants as “foreign workers” is dangerous territory and potentially inflammatory to Ontario’s millions of immigrant voters. Hudak virtually handed McGuinty the high ground and McGuinty was more than happy to occupy it.

Present your facts well

The third lesson is to know your facts and present them well. Based on his comments, it sounds as though Hudak grabbed the basic information and just came out swinging whereas McGuinty gave a considered, measured controlled response. If Hudak had analayzed Mcguinty’s policy more thoroughly and offered a better alternative he would have come off sounding much more attractive to the majority of voters.

Prepare your messages

And that brings me to the final message: know what messages your words and actions should deliver and prepare them well. One of McGuinty’s key messages in this election is the need for stable, experienced leadership and Hudak gave him the opportunity to deliver that message once again. Unfortunately for Hudak, he left the impression that he’s an angry reactionary, not a steady hand. As public speakers, we must always remember that it’s the unspoken messages that can be most lasting and powerful of all.

Win with honey

To be fair, a little later the same day, Hudak came off as cool,and relaxed and well informed. He needs to cultivate that persona more and the hot headed critic less. That old adage about winning more flies with honey than with vinegar still applies.

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About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

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